Holding an event in 2021? Here’s your risk and resilience checklist

Australia’s cultural and creative sector was severely impacted economically and socially by COVID-19 and continues to face challenges 12 months on.  

To assist, Governance Institute of Australia introduced its Arts Support Program in 2020, providing support to the not-for-profit arts community by promoting essential governance skills to help organisations navigate and manage post-pandemic. 

Melbourne Fashion Festival was one of the successful Arts Support Program collaborators for 2021, along with RISING. 

Celebrating its 25th anniversary, MFF showcased the country’s leading fashion designers, models and labels during a 10-day event in March. 

MFF acting CEO Yolanda Finch said the uncertainty created by COVID-19 presented enormous challenges with frequently changing restrictions and regulations an ongoing concern while preparing to deliver a world class event and exceptional customer experience. 

“Lack of assurance that events would even be able to proceed was the base uncertainty, so operational plans required multiple versions with extended scenarios built and briefed regularly,” she said. 

“[There was the] related challenge of securing sponsorships against reimagined assets, and of renegotiating existing sponsorships when all deliverables had similarly shifted shape.”  

Maintaining morale among MFF’s workforce was however the biggest challenge as so many people were critically affected during the pandemic.  

“[It was a challenge] to deliver something creative and beautiful, that brings joy, when there was so much heartbreak and anxiety right beneath the surface,” she said. 

Shifting business risk strategies  

In preparation for MFF’s 2021 event, which included digital and online runways, a fashion summit and retail opportunities, team members worked closely with the Audit and Risk Committee and the Board, scheduling weekly discussions and devising strategies to implement during the uncertainty. 

“We formed a core strategy as early as possible that was designed for flex and responsive, responsible decision making. That plan stood us in great stead throughout as its application changed regularly but its intent held us to ‘due north’,” Ms Finch said.  

From an economic and emotional standpoint, MFF’s mission to showcase and support the local fashion industry became more relevant than ever and strategies requiring ingenuity and optimism were devised to ensure they delivered on that mandate. 

One outcome of the pandemic has been a stronger focus – and respect for - risk management and mitigation across the business.  

“Creating clear and compliant pathways through real and potential risks has been the foundation for our ability to deliver this year’s Festival with as much confidence as was possible in the circumstances,” Ms Finch said. 

“Because of my daily focus on risk assessment, management, and mitigation, I never felt daunted or anxious during a time that could so easily have been overwhelming. With this discipline at our core, we were able to be really creative in our product delivery and take confidence in our ability to manage challenges that came our way.”  

MFF’S key event tips for risk mitigation and management 

  • Mitigate all known and manageable risks before commencing with event delivery 
  • Follow the mitigation plan as proactively as possible 
  • Remember, COVID-19 is only one risk category, don’t neglect or forget the other categories that require proactive management 
  • Clear the path of distractions and manageable risks  
  • Surround yourself with experts, allies and people you trust 
  • Consider real or potential challenges and find positives in Plan B, C and all the way to Z 
  • Side-step the way you used to do things and find alternative paths. 

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